How Forests Think and An Ocean Beyond Earth


works by Prof Liza Lim

My exhale is your inhale


How Forests Think – Liza writes

Whilst in Brazil, I was able to bring my most recent work, ‘How Forests think’ to completion. Somehow it seemed fitting to be composing the final part of the piece in a place that has the largest and most bio-diverse rainforest on the planet.

‘How Forests think’ reflects on the work of anthropologist Eduardo Kohn who writes about forest ecologies as the ‘living thought’ of human and non-human selves.[5] Each of these selves may have its own subjectivity, creating the world with its own registers of knowledge, sensation and meaning. These selves organize into communities: in ancient forests, a stump may be kept alive for centuries by the surrounding trees through underground fungal networks that nourish the old connections and keep a song going. One might think of a forest as a choir or certainly as an ensemble. Stories, dreams and thoughts inhabit multiple forms in a living matrix; they ask us to look beyond our limited human gaze and limited human time-span.

‘How Forests think’ is music made from assemblages of instruments whose qualities are like tendrils looking for places on which to clasp and entangle themselves. Its forms are emergent, like plants growing toward light and water; like mycelial strands entwining with tree roots in a co-evolving internet of plant-life. The music emerges out of criss-crossing conversations patterned like roots, vines, fungal networks; or like airborne, insect and animal-borne cross-pollinations (the breath, the buzz, the scratch, the love songs), where one thing looks for best fit with another. Larger forms grow out of this forest of associations in which difference moves from the individuated to the general and into new instantiations. The music ‘thinks’ into the future through processes of amplification (towards distortion or simplicity) and through affinities that bridge difference.


An Ocean Beyond Earth

Published on Sep 19, 2016

an ocean beyond earth, for ‘cello (prepared with violin & thread)

Composer: Liza Lim

Performer: Séverine Ballon